N.Y. Eases Travel Quarantine; Biden Signs Stimulus: Virus Update
A pharmacist hands a vaccine card to a patient after administering a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at a Costco store in Shoreline, Washington, U.S (Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg)

N.Y. Eases Travel Quarantine; Biden Signs Stimulus: Virus Update

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill into law. Payments will begin to arrive this weekend. Later Thursday Biden will address the nation to mark the day a year ago when the spread of coronavirus forced Americans into isolation, collapsing the economy and portending more than a half-million deaths.

New York state will no longer require domestic travelers to quarantine, though rules remain in place for international visitors. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the vaccine could be open to all adults in April. Texas’s attorney general is suing leaders of the Austin area for enforcing mask mandates.

AstraZeneca Plc will deliver less than half the planned number of vaccines to the European Union in the second quarter after attempts to tap the company’s global supply chain were unsuccessful. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine won clearance from the EU’s drugs regulator.

Key Developments:

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N.Y. Eases Travel Quarantine; Biden Signs Stimulus: Virus Update

Norovax Says Vaccine Is Effective (4:42 p.m. NY)

Novavax Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine was 96.4% effective against mild, moderate and severe symptoms of the disease in the final analysis of a late-stage trial in the U.K.

The company also released final results of a mid-stage trial from South Africa showing that its vaccine was 55.4% effective against a variant circulating there that’s already been shown to partially elude the effects of some shots.

Austin Sued for Enforcing Mask Rules (4:35 p.m. NY)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he would sue leaders of the Austin area for defying a state executive order and enforcing mask mandates. “I told Travis County & The City of Austin to comply with state mask law,” Paxton tweeted. “They blew me off. So, once again, I’m dragging them to court.”

Governor Greg Abbott rescinded the state’s mask mandate and banned enforcement of any local mask ordinances, starting Wednesday. Nonetheless, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Judge Andy Brown of surrounding Travis County said they would continue to enforce mask rules to contain the virus’s spread.

Portugal Begins Gradual Easing (4:11 p.m. NY)

Portugal plans to open nursery schools on March 15 as the government starts to gradually ease confinement measures adopted to contain one of the world’s worst outbreaks, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said.

People will continue to have a duty to stay at home until the Easter holiday weekend, and remote working will remain mandatory when possible, Costa said at a press conference on Thursday. Controls on the land border with Spain will also remain in place for now. Secondary schools and restaurants will be able to open from April 19, the prime minister said.

Ontario Warned on Variants’ Spread (4:08 p.m. NY)

Ontario’s infections caused by Covid-19 variant strains have roughly quadrupled since the beginning of February, a provincial government advisory panel reported Thursday. “Our ability to control the rate of spread will determine whether we return to normal or face a third wave of infection,” the advisers wrote.

EU Regulator Says Astra Shot Safe (2:30 p.m. NY)

The European Union’s drugs regulator said the benefits of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine continue to outweigh the risks, and the shot can still be administered while investigations of possible blood clots are ongoing.

The European Medicines Agency reiterated that there is currently no indication that the Astra vaccine caused these conditions, which aren’t listed as side effects. The EMA issued the statement as Denmark, Italy and Norway joined other European countries in temporarily suspending use of some or all of their Astra Covid shots. The regulator is investigating the concerns.

Biden Signs $1.9 Trillion Stimulus (2:12 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill into law, capping his first major legislative achievement and allowing aid to flow to tens of millions of individuals, businesses and state and local governments.

Later he will address a pandemic-weary nation to mark the day a year ago when the spread of coronavirus forced Americans into isolation, swiftly collapsing the economy and portending more than a half-million deaths.

Biden’s prime-time remarks will acknowledge the personal and collective struggles of the past 12 months while looking ahead to a more promising future in which enough of the U.S. population is vaccinated to minimize the risk of the virus.

Florida Predicts Shots for All Adults (1:49 p.m. NY)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis plans to open up Covid-19 vaccines to residents 55 and up “soon,” and they could be available to all adults at some point next month.

DeSantis had already announced he would expand eligibility by five years to everyone 60-and-over starting on Monday. But speaking Thursday in Lake City, Florida, he suggested further expansion was on the horizon. He said the state didn’t anticipate any extra Johnson & Johnson vaccine for this week or next, but probably the week starting March 21.

“If the supply floodgates really open up, we could be in a position some time in April where it’s just available and people can get it,” he said.

Paris Spread ‘Worrying’ (1:32 p.m. NY)

One year after Europe first locked down, French authorities are fighting to avoid imposing new restrictions on Paris to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“The pandemic is particularly worrying in the Paris region,” French Health Minister Olivier Veran told a weekly briefing in Paris on Thursday. The virus spreading at a pace of 350 cases per 100,000 inhabitants weekly, he said.

Chile Cracks Down (1:30 p.m. NY)

Chile announced a series of new restrictions aimed at slowing a surge in coronavirus cases that’s tarnished one of the world’s fastest vaccine roll-outs.

All neighborhoods in the Santiago metropolitan region, which is home to 40% of the nation’s population, will be under strict weekend quarantines as of March 13, according to a Health Ministry announcement on Thursday. A nationwide nightly curfew will be extended, stores will be forced to close earlier and gyms and casinos will face new operating rules.

Astra Deliveries to EU Cut in Half (12:50 p.m. NY)

AstraZeneca Plc will deliver less than half the planned number of Covid-19 vaccines to the European Union in the second quarter after attempts to tap the company’s global supply chain were unsuccessful.

The pharmaceutical giant will deliver about 76 million out of a planned 180 million doses to the bloc in the three-month period through June, according to data based on delivery projections for one member state seen by Bloomberg. The national figures were extrapolated to the EU level based on the European Commission’s methodology for distributing supplies.

Lamont Seeks Vaccine Incentives (12:44 p.m. NY)

With the U.S. supply ramping up, “we’ve really got to think about how we get the final 30% of the people vaccinated,” Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said in an interview.

“They’re often people of color, or just anti-vaxer, vaccine hesitators,” Lamont said on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power” on Thursday. “We may have to stimulate demand a little bit.”

“A lot of younger people may say, ‘Hey it’s over.’ That’s not good,” he said. Incentives could include restaurants saying “come on in” to people who can show proof of vaccination, Lamont said.

Puerto Rico Relaxes Restrictions (11:46 a.m. NY)

Puerto Rico is allowing theaters to reopen for the first time since March 2020 at 30% capacity, and allowing movie theaters and restaurants to run at 50% capacity, as the U.S. territory continues to loosen its Covid-19 protocols. Visits to prisons and nursing homes will also be allowed for the first time in a year. Even so, a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect, and masks and social distancing are mandatory. Bars and discos also remain closed, likely putting a damper on tourism over spring break and the Easter holidays. The new rules, announced Thursday by Governor Pedro Pierluisi, will go into effect Monday and run through April 11.

North Carolina to Reopen Schools (11:15 a.m. NY)

North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature completed passing a bill Thursday to reopen schools, a day after reaching a deal with Democratic governor Roy Cooper on the contentious issue. Elementary schools will return to full-time in-person learning three weeks after Cooper signs the bill into law. Local districts will decide on whether middle and high schools will return to full in-person learning. “It’s critical to get our students back into the classroom,” Cooper said in a video interview with Politico, though he noted that he retains control to modify local plans for safety reasons.

N.Y. Eases Traveler Quarantine (10:27 a.m. NY)

Domestic travelers will no longer be required to quarantine after entering New York from another U.S. state or territory beginning April 1, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. The state still recommends quarantine after domestic travel as precaution. Mandatory quarantine remains in effect for international travelers.

U.S. Jobless Claims Fall (9 a.m. NY)

Applications for U.S. jobless benefits fell by more than forecast last week to the lowest since early November. Initial claims in regular state programs fell by 42,000 to 712,000 in the week ended March 6, Labor Department data showed Thursday.

The initial claims figures suggest that more vaccines and fewer business restrictions are helping to slow the rate of job cuts. States including Texas, Mississippi and Wyoming have recently announced plans to relax pandemic-related rules, like capacity limits for dining and gatherings, which may boost hiring in the coming weeks.

States with the largest decline in initial claims last week included New York, Texas and Mississippi. Meanwhile, California posted the largest increase.

EU Regulator Clears J&J Vaccine (8:22 a.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine won clearance from the European Union’s drugs regulator, paving the way for the first single-injection shot to help bolster the region’s sluggish vaccination campaign. The European Commission must now rubber-stamp the decision before the product can be distributed.

Millions of Vaccines in EU Unused (7:37 a.m. NY)

More than 11.5 million Covid vaccine doses that have been delivered to European Union countries have not yet been used, official figures showed. The number of shots sent by manufacturers now totals 54.2 million, compared to 46 million a week previously. The data covers the week to March 7.

According to the ECDC, 8.2% of adults have received one shot of the vaccine, an increase from 6.5% over the week, with 3.7% being fully vaccinated, up from 3.1%.

Pfizer Blocks Most Spread in Study (6:47 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s coronavirus vaccine blocked 94% of asymptomatic infections in an Israeli study that further builds the case for the shot’s overwhelming effectiveness against the virus. The vaccine stopped 97% of symptomatic cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the companies and the Israeli Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

Heathrow Traffic Lowest Since 1966 (3:17 p.m. HK)

London’s Heathrow Airport monthly passenger numbers fell below 500,000 in February, the lowest since 1966, due to the ban on all but essential travel, blanket quarantine, pre-departure and post-arrival testing, according to a statement Thursday. The airport is working with the government’s taskforce to facilitate safe restart of international travel after May 17.

German Cases Most Since January (2:30 p.m. HK)

Cases in Germany rose the most since Jan. 21, and the country’s seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people climbed to the highest in more than a month. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has started lifting some lockdown restrictions, with schools partially reopening and hairdressers allowed to resume business, and has mapped out a path for a possible further easing linked to the infection rate.

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